Today on Holden’s Obsession with the Gaggle

From Holden:

Looks like nearly everyone in the country has a false impression about Chimpy’s deal with his buddies in the United Arab Emirates.

Q Scott, you said this morning that the President wasn’t made aware of the ports decision until the last several days, until after the decision had been made. Does the President wish that he’d been brought into the deliberations sooner, that he knew about it before it became a big political controversy?

MR. McCLELLAN: Let me mention a couple of things. First of all, there is a congressionally mandated review process that is put in place for transactions like this. It is a national security review process. It’s called the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States — the CFIUS process — that oversees such transactions. And you have some 12 departments and agencies that are involved and thoroughly reviewing such transactions and closely scrutinizing such transactions to make sure that it meets all national security concerns, to make sure that there is no national security threat.


Now, we have seen some concerns expressed by some members of Congress and others, and that’s understandable, given that they have seen some coverage that has seemed to suggest that this company, an Arab company, would be in control of our ports. And that is a false impression. That’s why it’s important that we continue to talk with members and others about the facts, and that they understand the safeguards that are in place, and they understand how closely scrutinized this was. And that’s what we will — that’s what we will continue to do.


Q So insofar as the Speaker yesterday suggested a moratorium on this deal and that Senator Frist has also spoken out in opposition to it, are they just ill-informed?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, I think you have to ask them their reasons for opposing it. I’ll let them explain that. I’m not going to try to speak for members of Congress. Members of Congress have the right to do what they feel is necessary. But that’s why I said we are going to continue talking to them and providing them with the facts and making sure they have a clear understanding of the facts here.

I wonder if he read about it in the newspaper.

Q When specifically did the President — how did he find out about this — and when specifically? Was it last week when this blew up? He read it in the paper?

MR. McCLELLAN: No, it was coming out last week, and he learned about it over the last several days. I couldn’t pinpoint the exact time, but last several days, recently.


Q So he found out through the news coverage, is that what you’re saying? How did he find out about it?

MR. McCLELLAN: Yes, I think, initially, Steve, when this was becoming more — it was getting more press coverage, that’s how he found out about it.

Karl Rove has other things on his mind.

Q And a follow-up to Suzanne’s question. I take it that on the political review at the White House, I take it people such as Karl Rove did not take a political look-see at this for any implications at all?

MR. McCLELLAN: No. His office was not involved in this process.

If it walks like a Lame Duck…

Q Politically, your own party turned on this White House aggressively —

MR. McCLELLAN: I wouldn’t look at it that way. You’re looking at it in the political context. The President is not looking at it in the political context. I understand and appreciate you looking at it in that context, but the President is looking at this as what I said it is — this was the right principle, and it’s the right policy.

Q Scott, it sounds like the President has lost control of the party on the Hill. It sounds like they’re campaigning against George Bush.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I don’t think that’s accurate. You’re talking about this specific issue? This specific issue — let’s clarify that — no, I think — the President just came back from a House Republican conference just a short time ago, and they talked about important national security priorities, and they talked about the tools we’re using to protect the American people like the terrorist surveillance program. And at the end of that comment — end of those remarks, he received a standing ovation. So I think there is strong, united support for the policies that we are putting in place and that we are pursuing to make America more prosperous and to make America safer.

President Mushroom: Kept in the Dark and Fed Shit

Q Scott, there were some questions raised about information flow to the President during Hurricane — after Hurricane Katrina and questions about when he learned that the Vice President had shot a man. And now there are questions about when the President learned about this. Is there some sort of systematic issue here where information —

MR. McCLELLAN: I think there’s a systematic over-analysis sometimes in this room, and I think that’s over-interpreting things and drawing the wrong conclusions, Peter.

Q Will that be —

MR. McCLELLAN: — false impression on each of those issues. I’ll be glad to address each of those issues individually, but I think it’s totally wrong to try to draw conclusions and over — overanalyze this thing in that manner.

Q — should be looked at in the report coming out tomorrow about information flow to the President during Katrina?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, you will have the report tomorrow, and you’ll hear the briefing tomorrow from Fran Townsend. You’ll have an opportunity to ask her questions about it.

Fairness is what I say it is.

Q Just to clear up — back on the ports again — you said at one point, these additional measures that the company will take, security measures. Are they doing exactly the same thing at the British company did? Are these actually additional measures? Were they looked at in a different way?

MR. McCLELLAN: I understand in their agreement there were additional security measures that were reached with Dubai.

Q That the British didn’t have to. Then why should you hold a company from the Middle East to a different standard?


Q So they were under greater scrutiny than the British company? They were held to a different standard?

MR. McCLELLAN: They were closely scrutinized —

Q They were held to a different standard than the British?

MR. McCLELLAN: — through this review process. This review process provides for us to be able to reach agreements like this for transactions to move forward.

Q But, Scott, back again on — so they were held to a different standard? The President is saying we should not hold a company from the Middle East to a different standard — they, in fact, were?

MR. McCLELLAN: He’s talking about the review process. If you go through the review process and all these issues are thoroughly addressed and thoroughly reviewed, and it poses no national security threat, we shouldn’t be holding them to a different standard. So I think you’re taking it to a different step than what I was suggesting.

Miserable Failure

Q The point about — you’re kind of dismissive of this — the question about information flow. When — this is obviously a big deal. You’re conceding that now when you talk about you should have briefed Congress and so forth. The President says publicly when he goes around the country, look, after 9/11 it’s okay get back to your lives, let me worry about your safety. And yet on an issue of this significance, he finds out in the newspapers. Shouldn’t people be worried about that?

Your Daily Les

Q For the first time in his five-year presidency, the President has now threatened to veto what is strongly supported by his own party’s Speaker of the House, Senate Majority Leader, Governor of New York and Governor of Maryland, among many others — Republicans and Democrats. Can you tell us of any such major split before in American history?

MR. McCLELLAN: Well, Les, I don’t know if those individuals you mention have had an opportunity to learn all the facts relating to —

Q They speak out without learning —

MR. McCLELLAN: Now, don’t put words in my mouth —

Q — are you contending that they just shoot their mouths off?

MR. McCLELLAN: — you’re putting words in my mouth. Well, there have been individuals who have spoken out and expressed things that simply aren’t correct about this transaction. And so that’s why we want to make sure that they have the facts. We want to make sure that they know the safeguards that are in place. We want to make sure they understand how carefully reviewed this transaction was to make sure that there are no national security threats with it going forward.


Q Scott, are there any American companies managing port operations in any Arab countries?

MR. McCLELLAN: I haven’t taken a full look at that. You can probably go and get that information from various companies or departments involved in that. I’m sure — I hesitate to speculate about it, but —

Q You can’t name one, can you? Isn’t that true?

MR. McCLELLAN: Les, I haven’t looked into it. I haven’t look into that matter.